KITS 05/2023

Lt. Eugene A. Valencia, VF-9, USS Lexington, February 1945

One of the highest scoring naval fighter aces,

Eugene Anthony Valencia, made himself famous

as leader of the “Valencia Circus”, which was

the name given to his division because of their

ability to shoot down enemies and also thanks to

their rather flamboyant demeanor. He was born

on April 13, 1921, in San Francisco and joined

the US Navy in 1941. He was designated a Naval

Aviator on February 9, 1942, and after a stint as

an instructor, he reported to VF-9 on board of USS

Essex a year later. When November 11 came, the

day of the massive, combined strike on Rabaul,

Valencia achieved three full victories plus one

shared. After one victory at the end of January

1944, he became ace with three Zeros shot down

on February 17. When back from his first combat

tour, he worked with selected pilots on the tactics

“Mowing Machine”, the idea he got during fights

over Truk archipelago. In this tactic a pilot could

constantly be on the attack while his mates would

be providing cover for him. The VF-9 returned to

Pacific in January 1945 and soon after Valencia’s

division started to reap the benefits of their

training. Valencia increased his score steadily

from February 16, 1945, when he added his eighth

full victory near the Imba lake. At the end of the

tour, his score counted 23 confirmed enemies

shot down, two probably and two damaged,

making him the third best US naval ace of WWII.

He passed away in 1972.

Lt. Cornelius N. Nooy, VF-31, USS Belleau Wood, August 1945

Cornelius Nicholas Nooy was born on April 15,

1921, in Smithtown and became probably the

deadliest ornamental gardener in the world,

as he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in

Ornamental Horticulture from the New York State

Institute of Agriculture in 1941 and also became

one of the most successful Naval fighters. He

enlisted in the US Navy on March 18, 1942, and

started his flight training on August 1, 1942. Four

and a half months later he was designated a Naval

Aviator and became member of VF-31. There he

May 2023

did not waste time and achieved his first aerial

victory on January 29, when he shot down one

Zero while another was classified as probable. In

the end he had 19 victories to his credit, ranking

him the fifth most successful US naval fighter

of WWII (rank shared with Alexander Vraciu and

Patrick Fleming) and the most successful fighter

operating from light aircraft carriers. The Hellcat

depicted here sports symbols of all of his victories

under the windshield and also his name and the

emblem of the VF-31. Between them, there was

probably the emblem of NYSIA. This aircraft

served several pilots to take commemorative

photos at the end of the tour and so all the logos

and names were temporary. As the unit’s symbol

was usually placed in front of the windshield, we

presume it was also the case of this aircraft. Nooy

left active duty on December 28, 1945, and served

in the Naval Reserve, where he was promoted to

Lt Cdr on February 1, 1952. He died of cancer just

a month before his 37th birthday.

INFO Eduard